Report from afar (archives):
Eucharistic miracles are in the news. Last week, Tuesday of Holy Week, a Host appeared to secrete blood as young people were praying before the Blessed Sacrament at a drug rehabilitation home in the province of Santa Fe in Argentina. The bishop -- who personally visited the site -- is investigating. States the diocese: "Throughout history, the Church has received the testimony of the real and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, in this unique form of manifestation. These cases have been neither common nor simple to discern."
I have recently spoken about a powerful trip to Lourdes and Fatima; I had been to both before, so I knew how potent they are; they were not surprises (except for the baths, which I hadn't tried previously). After that was Our Lady of Laus, also in France, but a more remote area, near Gap, which I never had journeyed to; that was surprising and fits the bill as a major pilgrimage destination.
But just as surprising was the force we felt at the Eucharistic Miracle in Santarem, Portugal (about thirty-miles south of Fatima). The True Presence was tangible there, truly palpable. Grace filled the air, and so, near the altar, did the aroma of sanctity (which we later learned is frequent there; the staff said it didn't come from any sort of flowers on the altar).
This is a Eucharistic miracle that not only has total Church approval -- with three different Popes granting plenary indulgences, to those who visit -- but was as clear-cut as such a miracle can be. For it was attended by oozing blood that was seen by a number of witnesses -- actually dripping onto a street -- and also a great, inexplicable luminosity.
Clearly, a finger from Heaven had touched it -- and still touches it.
Some consider it the second most important Eucharistic miracle outside of the famous one in Lanciano. When tested, they are the same AB blood type (and match blood so identified on the Shroud of Turin).
We're not talking about a Host that simply turned color and looked brownish or reddish. That happens in our own time and may or may not bear holy authenticity. There are times when mold or fungus comes into play, mimicking the color of blood.
At Santarem, that was not the case. Tthe accounts vary slightly but all place the miracle in the 1200s. I have seen it pegged at 1225, 1247, and 1266, perhaps because there was not just one miracle but has been a series of them.
Whatever the precise year (it was probably in 1247 or before), that's a long time for a "legend" to endure. And it's because this is no legend. To this day, claimed a doctor (Arthur Hoagland), the blood that collected at the bottom of a reliquary sometimes has a color of wet blood and other times blood that has dried. This recalls Lanciano.
But Santarem is famous too for healings that occur in its proximity. Accounts are documented in a little museum behind the altar, where one climbs a short but steep set of stairs to touch the glass encasement that holds the Host. The feeling is supernal.
It was in the 1200s that a woman whose husband had been cheating on her and in general treating her poorly sought the bewitching talents of a local sorceress. The fortuneteller told her to bring a consecrated Host to her if she wanted her to fix her marriage. This the woman did, attending Mass at the local Church of St. Stephen and -- after receiving Communion -- slipping the Host out of her mouth and into a veil or scarf, intending to take it to the sorceress.
However, on her way there, say the accounts, the Host began to bleed and to such an extent that several passersby noticed and sought to help her.
Instead of going to the fortuneteller, the shocked woman decided to head home, where she placed the Host, still in that scarf, at the bottom of a trunk in her attic.
That night, a mysterious light issued from the trunk -- actually, through it, according to official documents -- startling both husband and wife. The entire house was illuminated. It's all recorded in records commissioned by King Alfonso IV during the following century.
Both husband and wife also saw a vision of angels in Adoration, and after a honest reckoning with each other, and reconciliation, spent the rest of the night in Adoration themselves. At dawn, a priest was summoned.
Later, the Host was taken in procession and encased in wax before being secured in a tabernacle. That set the stage for a second miracle: in the 1300s (probably around 1340) it was discovered that the wax was broken into pieces and the Host was miraculously enclosed now in a crystal recipient. This was later placed in a gold and silver monstrance, with a sunburst of thirty-three rays.
The Host is irregularly shaped, with delicate veins running through it where a quantity of blood is collected in the crystal. As writer Joan Carroll Cruz pointed out, it is a miracle that "has endured for over seven hundred years."
Pretty intense. This alone was worth the trip to Europe -- so adeptly run by the Catholic pilgrimage company, 206 Tours of Long Island.
The Host has bled a number of times, and images of Christ are seen in it. I noted one video where He seemed to be in profile. (Do you see it in YouTube video below at about three minutes into it? Or in the second video?)
Saint Francis Xavier is among those who have adored Christ at this church in this miracle.
But never mind anything else: it's the feeling, the feeling of sanctity, more even than the aroma, even more than the deep rich historical accounts.
-- Michael H. Brown
(If you don't think the Eucharist has power, take a look at a recent photo, below!)